Jane Eyre: Character Study

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Charlotte Bronte, nineteenth century English novelist, is known for her intensity of vision and feelings. “Her strength as a novelist lies in her ability to portray in moving detail the inner struggles of women who are endowed with a powerful capacity for feeling, yet whose social circumstances deny them the opportunity for intellectual or emotional fulfillment.” (Rosengarten, 33) This strength is strongly portrayed in one of her greatest novels, Jane Eyre: An Autobiography. In this novel, Jane Eyre progresses from a barely tolerated child, through a stage of figuring out who she is, to becoming a mature, independent women. Jane first appears as an unhappy and unloved child, living in the Reeds’ Gateshead with cruel relatives. “Jane’s unhappiness stems from a disjunction between how she appears to herself, as a sensitive worthwhile human being, and how she appears to those around her, as a mopey, anti-social girl.” (Bodenheimer, 5) She lacks the ability to fit in with her surroundings. “The Reeds’ alienate Jane by making no attempt to understand her; however, she benefits from their mistreatment by learning how to take up for herself when she is wrongfully accused of being a liar and a bad child.” (Markley, 13) Eventually, Jane is sent to the boarding school Lowood, where she slightly matures while receiving an education. Though she believes she is in a much better environment, instead of receiving ethical maltreatment as she did in the Reeds’ house, she now receives religious maltreatment from Mr.Bocklehurst, the school’s hypocritical and abusive headmaster. Two Godly characters, Miss Temple and Helen Burns, encourage Jane’s growth and development while she’s in school. Though she admires her young friend Helen, Jane is unable to forgive and accept things the way she is able to. “Helen does help Jane come to realize that appearances need not always directly
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